The US Navy loves their abbreviations: JAG, SEAL, NCIS, SECNAV, USLANTFLT… but the best has to be ADCOMSUBORDCOMPHIBSPAC. The Soviets also loved their abbreviations: НИИОМТПЛАБОПАРМБЕТЖЕЛБЕТРАБСБОМОНИМОНКОНОТДТЕХСТРОМОНТ!
The best dictionary entry in history appeared in some editions of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: “Zymurgist (noun). Brewer. The last word in dictionaries.”
There are more than 300 sign languages in use in the world today. When signers of different languages meet, how do they communicate?
How do you bring a dying language back from the brink? Incubate it in a nest, of course.
Papyrus is expensive. Scripture is repetitive. The earliest Christian texts used a clever set of abbreviations to save space and time.
Propaganda is ages old, but the 20th and 21st centuries have given it a set of new tricks.
In 1944 a graduate student wrote a parody of technical writing that has entered engineering folklore: the turboencabulator.
In the late 19th century, a linguist and some language teachers concocted a writing system that could represent every meaningful sound in every spoken language in the world. It is still in use today.
An eponym is a word named after a person. Some, like algebra, are well-known. But these words are also eponyms: boysenberry, cardigan, diesel, guy, Kiribati, neanderthal, orrery, and pamphlet.
The Akan of Ghana name their children after days of the week, birth order, and sometimes notable facts about their birth. Kofi Atta Annan, for example, was a twin born on a Friday. But nobody wants to be called Obím̀pέ.
Before television, people had to make their own fun. So they trained pigs to read.
In a 1939 short film, Porky Pig swears in the funniest way possible. It was not seen by the public until the 1970s.
In 2017, because of a missing comma, a Maine company had to pay out five million dollars in a legal settlement.
Around the world today, several languages have just one native speaker left. When they die, their language dies with them.
Flother is another word for a snowflake. It appears only once, in a 1275 CE book. The poison that killed Hamlet’s father in Shakespeare’s play, hebenon, is mentioned nowhere else. These are the hapax legomena, the lonely words.